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Posts from the ‘Happiness’ Category

Change Your Explanations

“While you can’t control your experiences, you can control your explanations.”― Martin E.P. Seligman, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

We want things to be different but are unwilling to change. When we shift our energy and effort from trying to change other people and circumstances, we can focus on the only thing we can change – ME.

Studies have shown that optimism and gratitude improve our health including preventing chronic disease, improving our immune system, reducing stress and increasing life longevity.

And, yes it can be difficult to be optimistic when other people are pessimistic, complaining, gossiping and chirping. But with attention and practice, you can strengthen your optimism muscles and be healthier and happier. A worthy pursuit to be sure.

In her article How to Be Optimistic When the World Around You Isn’t, Amy Morin, LCSW offers a few suggestions:

  1. Optimism is a choice – turn your mindset around and think positive thoughts;
  2. Decide to be optimistic – it’s a daily decision, start each day reading, thinking and saying positive things. Force it until it takes hold;
  3. Avoid positive energy vampires – boundaries and limits on toxic people and the news;
  4. Recognize your negative thoughts – catch yourself in the act, reframe and flip it;
  5. Bestow positivity on others – share positive feedback with others – BONUS – it returns to you!;
  6. Imagine a positive future – dream big;
  7. Practice gratitude – an instant boost of optimism.

There is no risk, only reward in becoming optimistic. Changing your perspective, old stories and explanations = happier life.

 

Preparation

“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” – Paul Theroux

“Wisdom is nothing but a preparation of the soul, a capacity, a secret art of thinking, feeling and breathing thoughts of unity at every moment of life.” Hermann Hesse

We need to prepare for the inevitable – snow, inconveniences, detours, delays, loss – all that life weaves between the victories, joy, growth, happiness and love that lasts beyond this world. There will rarely be long stretches of problem-free living. While we can’t control some circumstances, we can prepare how we will react to them.

I bought a new snowblower yesterday to be ready for winter, which in Minnesota can happen anytime now. My Sears snowblower lasted 20 years.

I remember the day that my Dad and I bought it like it was yesterday. I just had been diagnosed with melanoma in February, 1999 and had surgery in March with three lymph nodes removed under my arm. I couldn’t lift my arm for about a month. A  week after surgery, we got a few feet of snow. I usually shoveled and didn’t have a snowblower.

When I saw my Dad and neighbor digging me out, we went out the next day and got a snowblower. As I said good-bye to my tough old Sears model, I thought, as I do daily, how much I miss my Dad. And I am deeply grateful for many good years with him. He was my best friend.

A lot has happened in the last 20 years and the past three has been intense at times. As Gretchen Rubin says, “the days are long and the years are short.” If we are wise, loss gives us a deep appreciation for what we have right now and to not take one day for granted.

Prepare for joy and be open to discover it daily.

Joy Guards

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.” – Marcus Aurelius

Pessimism is easy, passive and spreads quickly. Optimism requires daily intention, attention and aggressive pursuit. Guard your joy. You own it and are responsible for it. No one else, it’s yours.

The girls always guard me, their toys and their joy. Each day, they remind me that joy really does come in sips, not gulps.

They were watching me get ready for work and their eyes were telling me to put on a bit more make up and do one more brush through the hair before leaving.

Joy guards reporting and on duty.

“Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall. It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events. Joy comes in sips, not gulps.” – Sharon Draper

Gratitude Journal

“The good life consists in deriving happiness by using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of living. The meaningful life adds one more component: using these same strengths to forward knowledge, power or goodness.” – Martin Seligman

Gratitude is a key ingredient to real optimism and whole-hearted living. Starting a daily gratitude journal can transform ordinary days into extraordinary days.

A Verywellmind.com article offers some simple and doable tips on starting and maintaining a gratitude journal:

  1. Decide on a Journal – online or paper;
  2. Decide on a framework – long form or lists;
  3. Commit to a schedule – do it everyday;
  4. Keep writing – things unwind and unfold when we write them down.

The 5 Minute Journal app has a morning and evening check in a very simple format. In the morning, you record 3 things you are grateful for and 3 things you will do to make today great? And then daily affirmations – I am… In the evening, you record 3 amazing things that happened today, How could I have made today even better? You can look back and see how you make progress when you do it daily.

Being intentional, aware of your blessings daily and saying “thank you” fosters an abundance mindset. Knowledge, power, goodness.

“‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” – Alice Walker

The Dew of Little Things

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” – Khalil Gibran

One of my favorite Fall weekends is the Twin Cities 10 mile run and Marathon. I’ve done three marathons and today was probably my 15th 10 miler. It’s fun to see friends and family running, people encouraging others on the sidelines and finishing a good run on a cool, sunny morning. The fruition of months of work for thousands of weekend warriors.

This group has run many events with me through the years, both running on the road and all of life events, both victories and losses. We meet up twice a week to run and enjoy a meal and always to gather on this weekend to celebrate the human spirit and resolve. They all make my life better by their presence.

Physical activity releases endorphins, changes our mood and keeps us young. And decades of research shows the value of relationships is the key to our longevity. So get your dose of friends, fun and moving your bones – your best prescription for a very good life.

To understand and to be understood. Let there be laughter!

Stop in Your Tracks

“I take a simple view of life: keep your eyes open and get on with it.” – Laurence Olivier

On a long run last night, this flower stopped me in my tracks.

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” – Alice Walker

This beauty was followed by dozens of flitting and playful monarch butterflies swimming through flower patches on the path, floating about in joy and delight. Flowers, butterflies, a sunset pull us out of our spinning thoughts and worries, reminding us of the amazing miracle of life.

God is a creative creator, sustainer and redeemer. He shows us this in nature, in people and in soft whispers in our heart. We are swimming in signs and wonders in seemingly daily “little” things.

Like a flower and butterfly, we go from seed to bloom, from cocoon to butterfly. And in the middle of transformation, we get distracted, confused and discouraged. Keep going. And while you’re on the journey, stop in your tracks and see the depth and brilliance in a purple flower.

Wake up and notice the simple miraculous beauty abound today, tomorrow and the next.

Not easy, not perfect but GOOD!

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” – Kevyn Aucoin

After a pretty good run this morning, Jeanne and I stopped for coffee before getting to the details of the day. Another running friend Soni – 80 years young – stopped by to say “hi.” She was telling us that she’s got some knee problems so she’s only running 2 miles every other day until she can get back to her daily schedule. She runs early in the morning and could outrun people half her age.

Jeanne and I were sharing our own ailments and injuries preventing us from doing what we want to do. All of us were in agreement that while we may be slowing down, we’re not stopping.

Soni then summed it up “it’s a bitch” and then we all started laughing – it set the tone for the day. And her t-shirt was perfect too – “Life isn’t easy. Life isn’t perfect. Life is good.” Jeanne told her that she was her hero and Soni’s response was “I don’t feel very heroic.” Moving through life with joy despite circumstances and challenges is heroic indeed.

The gospel this week was the story of Martha and Mary. Martha was working hard, preparing and in full worry mode. She was upset when Mary chose to not help her but rather to rest at Jesus’ feet and be with him fully. When Martha lamented to Jesus about Mary not helping, he responded -“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Let Martha rest and put on your Mary today. Enjoy what is present in this very moment and remember, life really is good.

Joy Pursuit

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson

We pass through happiness, but we are succumbed by joy. Happiness comes in waves, in achievements, celebrations and milestones. Joy is a state of being, unmoved by circumstances and anchored in each day. Both are good. If I had to choose, I choose joy. It’s deeper, a steady loyal friend.

May you pursue and find joy that lives in a flower, a glance, a laugh, a memory and inside you. And in your pursuit and discovery of joy find a lasting happiness and well of gratitude.

“We can help create happiness, but we are seized by joy. We are pleased by happiness, but we are transformed by joy. When we experience joy we often feel we have glimpsed into a deeper and truer layer of reality.” – David Brooks, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life

It’s Impractical and Makes Perfect Sense

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” – Dale Carnegie

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” – Cecil Beaton

It’s been in the back of my mind for the past two months. And now that we are close to getting a few offers on my parent’s house, it moved front and center. Dad grew up playing pool and after much debate, he splurged and got a pool table years ago. He really enjoyed playing and never declined when asked to rack ‘em up.

I thought about keeping it and putting it in my basement. I then quickly dismissed the idea as impractical. It faded to the background and lingered at the same time.

Today, I measured my basement and then remeasured the pool table. It fits and it’s fitting. It is absolutely impractical and makes perfect sense. Despite the practical and logical reasons, I still want the pool table.

While it won’t bring Dad back, it’s something we shared and enjoyed. It is a place of conversation, confidence and lessons on how to see different angles, to think a few steps ahead to see where you want to go and how to spin avoid the scratch.

When I remodeled my kitchen 20 years ago, I wanted slate blue counters. I hesitated choosing the color, concerned about resale rather than picking something I really wanted. I went with the blue and never looked back.

We move too far into the future and miss fun that is rooted in today. Get the pool table, go with the blue counter, be utterly impractical if your heart is pulling you in that direction. Regrets are grounded in what we don’t do rather than what we do. Impractical and frivolous often makes perfect sense.

Now, rack ‘em up.

Granted

“Most people fill their schedules with work, and leisure only happens when there’s time left over. But it’s impossible to live a rich and full life without doing things that give you joy. Forget about productivity once in a while and give yourself permission to goof off.” – Amy Morin

Standing in the coffee shop waiting for a cup of coffee after a fun run and conversation with Jeanne and thinking about the list for the rest of my day, the coffee carrier right in front of me popped out at me and got my attention with this quote on permission. I went to get my phone to take a picture for this post.

“Become slower in your journey through life. Practice yoga and meditation if you suffer from 'hurry sickness.' Become more introspective by visiting quiet places such as churches, museums, mountains and lakes. Give yourself permission to read at least one novel a month for pleasure.” – Wayne Dyer

“Become slower in your journey through life. Practice yoga and meditation if you suffer from ‘hurry sickness.’ Become more introspective by visiting quiet places such as churches, museums, mountains and lakes. Give yourself permission to read at least one novel a month for pleasure.” – Wayne Dyer

What a simple and brilliant reminder that we are the only ones who can grant ourselves permission to make our day, to explore our environment, to choose our path. We wait for permission from others to live our own life, to choose the activities of the day.

So if you are waiting for permission, stop and grant it to yourself. Sign off and send yourself on the way to explore the possibility in today. It only takes one decision in your own mind to give yourself permission and responsibility to enjoy your day. The coffee carrier and I are happy to remind you and me that it’s time to explore and stop asking permission. It’s yours to give and to grant. It belongs to no one else. Granted.

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